Brachialgia: A Real Pain In The Neck
Simply put brachialgia is a medical term used to describe a type of arm pain caused by a compressed or “pinched nerve” in your neck. It is similar to the more commonly known condition of sciatica which causes leg pain from similar origins.
Brachialgia The Lesser Know Sibling Of Sciatica
The terms sciatica and brachialgia are used to describe nerve pain in the leg and in the arm respectively. Characteristic words to describe nerve pain are “burning”, “gnawing”, “aching”, “shooting”, “electric shock.” and sadly this nerve pain does not respond very well to normal over the counter pain killers. Sciatica is pain caused as a result of pinching, pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve, which is the large nerve formed by a combination of smaller nerves which leave from the lumbar spine and the section of spine below that called the sacral spine. Brachialgia is the exact analogy of sciatica but it is pain felt in the shoulder, arms, and hands. It can start as high as the neck and sometimes the head, and many patients have severe pain in the region of the shoulder blade.
The Anatomy Of Brachialgia?
Your spine has bony tunnels that contain the spinal cord and the spinal nerves, when something happens that reduces the diameter of one of the tunnels the spinal cord or spinal nerves can become pinched. This pinching of the nerve what is referred to as neural compression and causes several symptoms.
Symptoms Of Brachialgia
Symptoms may commonly include pain in the neck, shoulder blade or the arm, along with possible weakness in the upper limb and a numb or tingling feeling in the arm or hand.
Both sciatica and brachialgia are caused by damage to the spinal nerve roots generally inside the spine but occasionally just outside the spine. Brachialgia can be brought on by any of the conditions or a combination of the conditions listed below which can impact the size of the tunnels the nerves travel in. When the size of these tunnels is reduced, there is less room for the spinal nerves and/or spinal cord. As a result, pressure may be placed on these structures:
• Spinal stenosis
• Excess bone growth causing bony spurs (osteophytes) near the tunnels that contain the nerves.
• Osteoarthritis of the spine (spondylosis).
• Degenerative disc disease as well as bulging or prolapsed intervertebral discs.
• Spondylolisthesis (the forward displacement of a vertebra on another).
• Spinal cancer
Physiotherapy And Brachialgia
Physiotherapy treatment can be used to give pain relief and help the healing process. Depending on your individual requirements physiotherapy treatment may include:
• Mobilisation and manipulation of the spine and associated soft tissues.
• Targeted strengthening and stretching exercises.
• Postural retraining techniques.
• Advice around activity modification (ideas around ways to modify your workplace and recreational activities, to avoid strain via lifting and repetitive neck or arm movements or positions).
Pain medication frequently plays a big role in managing brachialgia as it is typically a very painful condition and you may be prescribed some powerful painkillers by your doctor or specialist to help manage the pain. A combination of good pain medication management and physiotherapy is frequently very effective in treating brachialgia.
Surgery And Brachialgia
In some situations more invasive approaches are required and nerve sheath injections may be used for pain relief. These injections can greatly improve the pain associated with brachialgia however the benefit of these injections is typically only temporary and does wear off after several days or weeks. In severe cases of brachialgia surgery by a neurosurgeon or spinal surgeon may be needed where previous treatment has failed to provide significant or lasting relief.
Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on What Is Brachialgia? should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.